Friday, November 23, 2012

Reading the Gospel of Judas IX: Why a Gospel of Judas?

When Judas tried to repent of his heinous crime, he discovered that it was too late to undo the damage that he had done. Can anyone imagine what it would have been like among the twelve apostles if Judas had stayed around? They all knew what he did. They were there. So Judas did the honorable thing from the Roman point of view, he committed suicide (Matthew 27:3-5). The gospel writer puts Judas’s death at near the same time as Jesus’s death. So Judas cannot have written the gospel attributed to him.

Judas did not write the gospel attributed to him; someone else did. Given his horrible reputation, why would anyone write a Gospel of Judas? What Christian would take it seriously?

One possible explanation is that it was not meant to be taken seriously. It was a satire. If that is the case, it is written to make fun of the positions of certain Christian factions.

The other possibility is that it was meant to be taken seriously with the following logic: In order to redeem humans, Jesus had to die. Anyone who helped Jesus to die must have been doing the will of God. Judas, by betraying Jesus, was doing the will of God. Therefore, Judas must have been the best of Jesus’s disciples. This logic is implicit in the Gospel of Judas and several points of it are made explicitly.

When reading the Gospel of Judas, one must bear in mind whether it was ever meant to be taken seriously. It might be sick satire and it might be sick logic. The intellectual position on issues that the Gospel of Judas need to be carefully examined.